Criteria and guidelines for the selection and implementation of a first programming language in high schools
The choice of a first programming language is critical for fostering problem solving skills and remains a concern in programming instruction that should be taken into account during discussions on the Computer Science curriculum. Criteria that should be considered in selection, therefore, need to be established. Few precedents exist for the implementation of such a language, and guidelines for this process ought to be introduced. This study aims to institute valid criteria and guidelines for the selection and implementation of a first programming language in high schools. Criteria for selection were established and guidelines for implementation introduced through a literature study, after which the validity of these was tested empirically. Care was taken to ensure the relevance of criteria, which were established regarding the development of thinking and programming skills, requirements for the programming language and its software development environment to make it appropriate for learners, new tendencies in programming, issues influencing programming used in practice, affordability, training and resources, and programming for various purposes. Guidelines were introduced for the implementation of a first programming language in high schools regarding appreciating teachers' roles in implementation, issues surrounding pilot testing, considering cost implications at macro-implementation level, introducing a new curriculum, and guidance, support and assessment. The validity of selection criteria and implementation guidelines identified was empirically verified within the South African context, in that all items in a questionnaire based on criteria and guidelines received averages rating these as 'fairly important'. Effect sizes designating practical significance for differences between 0 the reported importance and application/usage of criteria and guidelines and 0 the use of implementation guidelines as regarded by groups consisting of policy makers and teachers respectively indicate a need for more careful consideration of what is important and practical in the world of the teachers who implement a selected language.
- Education